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Hyper-Converged Building Blocks in the Open Software-Defined Data Center

Hyper-convergence is a new emerging buzz-word in the IT infrastructure business. This approach to creating integrated appliances that deliver faster time to value, increase operational efficiency, automate installation, provide non-disruptive scaling and create a simplified and unified user experience. These innovative appliances are extending the benefits delivered by software-defined storage and converged storage technologies for customers of all sizes.

There’s no doubt that hyperconverged infrastructure products have become a compelling option for not just enterprise customers, but cloud providers as well.  Hyperconverged appliances offer a simple scale-out architecture that fits the needs of most shared virtualized environments.  The highly engineered appliance-based products remove the complexity of large storage arrays

Let’s face it, business demands are forcing IT organizations to dramatically change the way they run their business. We refer to this shift as the “New Style of IT”

Keeping It Open and Simple

HP has been working together with VMware for many years to develop management stacks, converged infrastructure and converged systems that are integrated and optimized.

HP StoreVirtual Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) is the industry’s leading software-defined storage with over 1 million licenses shipped. The new ConvergedSystem 200-HC StoreVirtual combines VSA, HP OneView for converged management, and HP OneView for vCenter with robust VMware vSphere integration on ProLiant x86 servers. New HP OneView InstantON wrapper facilitates rapid deployment in less than 15 minutes. The HP CS 200-HC StoreVirtual system includes a rich set of standard data services, including:
·         Automated, sub-volume auto-tiering, thin provisioning and space reclamation provide capacity efficiency and lower storage costs without sacrificing performance.
·         Stretch cluster capabilities that keep applications online during appliance, rack-level or site-wide outages to address the need for business continuity.
·         Transparent multi-site high availability and workload mobility built on HP StoreVirtual technology certified by VMware as a vSphere Metro Storage Cluster solution and integrated with VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager.

·         Data volumes that can be non-disruptively replicated or migrated from one HP CS 200-HC StoreVirtual system to another—or to any x86-based server running any major hypervisor and HP StoreVirtual VSA—using built-in HP Peer Motion to provide flexibility to meet changing business needs.

The HP hyper-converged appliance and StoreVirtual VSA
HP is also announcing the HP ConvergedSystem 200 for VMware EVO:RAIL. This new offering is built around a simplified and intuitive management stack developed by VMware that is installed on a HP Proliant x86 server. The EVO:RAIL software bundle includes VMware vSphere, vCenter Server, vCenter Log Insight, Virtual SAN for Storage and EVO:RAIL Deployment, Configuration and Management. The EVO:RAIL bundle works with HP OneView for EVO:RAIL to allow end users to discover, monitor, and control the HP ConvergedSystem 200-HC from the EVO:RAIL user interface or from your vCenter web client.  In the future, HP OneView will directly manage the EVO:RAIL system unifying management of hyper-converged and traditional infrastructure deployments.

 HP ConvergedSystem 200 for VMware EVO:RAIL

How the Pieces Fit in an Open SDDC

With this announcement HP can now fill in more of the pieces of the Open SDDC framework that HP is developing with VMware as well as other partners. By adding in these new hyper-converged systems to the HP ConvergedSystem portfolio, HP is providing more customer choice and flexibility. Figure  below provides a conceptual overview of how the pieces developed by HP and VMWare fit together. Many of the software components were co-developed. The HP hardware components can be managed with VMware software and/or HP software, such as VSA and HP software-defined networking (SDN) software. HP OneView is the key enabling technology that facilitates Infrastructure as-a-Service (IaaS). It serves as the converged management platform that provides IT administrative control for the HP converged infrastructure. HP OneView serves as an automation hub that provides integration with the HP, VMware and other management software through the REST API.

An overview of the open SDDC framework HP is developing with VMware

Scale Computing’s HC3 platforms are an interesting alternative to the EVO:RAIL design.  There is no standard for measuring VM workloads, but the three different HC3 platforms scale up to 400 VMs.  Scale uses a customized version of KVM that’s hidden from the user.  Scale leverages a block-level storage architecture opposed to VSAN’s object-based approach.  Scale’s primary market for its HC3 product line is the small- and medium-sized business that has an eye fixed on simplicity.  While KVM may not have as many features as vSphere, Scale is banking on the simplicity of operation along with aggressive pricing compared to the competition.
Nutanix is all over storage and storage features.  Not that the other vendors take storage lightly, but Nutanix has a feel and premium price that puts it in competition with VCE’s Vblock vs. some of the other products.  Nutanix built SAN features into virtual storage appliances that can run on top of any major hypervisor.  The decoupled SAN functionality means that Nutanix’s approach is compatible with vSphere, Hyper-V and KVM.  Without much effort, an administrator can roll out one of these three platforms within an hour of racking and stacking the equipment.
As mentioned, Nutanix is pretty serious about storage and storage features.  Some of these features are available in vSphere, while others are unique to Nutanix, which means that traditional features such as snapshot, clones and deduplication are available across all supported hypervisors. Nutanix is a web-scale solution that competes with the likes of Vblock and can scale to replace a large enterprise data center.

SimpliVity is similar to Nutanix in that its storage platform takes center stage.  In addition to offering a hardware platform, SimpliVity teamed with Cisco to offer an integrated solution with Cisco’s C-Series Rack servers.  This provides an interesting alternative to EVO:RAIL for existing Cisco UCS customers looking to not stray from the UCS platform. The SAN software is key to the company’s future aspirations.  SimpliVity offers many of the storage features you’d expect to see in an enterprise storage array and, like the other hardware appliance vendors, decouples the SAN from the hypervisor.  The decoupling will allow SimpliVity to support more than VMware in the future.
From a cost perspective, you can expect SimpliVity to compete with Nutanix.

Nimboxx is the last appliance provider we’ll examine.  Nimboxx's hypervisor is also a customized version of KVM and is hidden from the user.  Like the other appliance vendors, the storage is decoupled from the hypervisor.  However, Nimboxx isn’t looking to provide multiple hypervisor support.  The company is looking to provide a scale-out hyperconverged product to cloud providers.  Nimboxx’s approach is to provide a web-scale infrastructure without paying licensing and support costs for the hypervisor layer.  In addition to enterprises and cloud providers, Nimboxx has an application OEM offering.  Nimboxx’s application OEM offering targets application providers looking to deploy their VMs on pre-packaged hardware.
With the existing hardware vendors, VMware and its seven OEM partners, VMware-centric options abound. The number of options surrounding VMware is to be expected with VMware in a market leader position.  However, if you are looking to expand beyond or even leave the VMware ecosystem, there is no shortage of appliance options.  In addition, I fully expect HP and Cisco to each offer hyperconverged products based on their various data center products and partnerships in the near future

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